Thursday, November 17, 2011
The DeMarco Murray effect in Dallas
By Dan Graziano
Our good friends over at ESPNDallas.com have a nice little package put together on rookie running back DeMarco Murray and the team-wide effect his emergence has had on the Dallas Cowboys. Todd Archer, for instance, writes that Murray's made Tony Romo's life easier, since the threat of a legitimate and dangerous rushing attack has opened some things up in the passing game. Todd also says Murray has made Jason Garrett a better coach and the Cowboys' defense a better defense, but that his main impact has been on the performance of the offensive line:
He has shown he does not need a lot of space to make a positive play. A lineman does not need to have perfect hand placement, perfect footwork or perfect timing for Murray to break free. Murray is a living, breathing John Wooden-ism as he runs. He is quick, but he doesn't hurry.
"I think he makes our jobs a little easier," said reserve guard Derrick Dockery, who helped pave the way for 1,000-yard rushers Clinton Portis and LaDell Betts in Washington and Marshawn Lynch in Buffalo. "Sometimes as an offensive lineman you might get that hole for a split second and he's the type of back that sees it, hits it and he's gone. He turns three yards into 15, 20, 50, touchdown. He's very explosive. That's the type of back you want to have. Not only that, he's a physical runner. He's not trying to fall down. He's trying to get those extra yards. As an offensive lineman, you appreciate that."
The Dallas offensive line has been a patchwork unit this season, but the return of Montrae Holland at left guard has seemed to solidify some things, and the emergence of Tony Fiammetta at fullback has helped with the run blocking as well. It's a bit of a perfect storm that has coincided with Felix Jones' ankle injury and the insertion of Murray as the starting running back, and Jean-Jacques Taylor even thinks it'll help Jones once he comes back:
Jones is poised to have the same role with the Cowboys that he had at Arkansas. You know, when he used to carry the ball nine or 10 times a game after Darren McFadden had softened the defense.
Most times, defenses couldn't handle his combination of speed, acceleration and quickness, leading to big play after big play.
There's little doubt that the Cowboys' offense works better with Murray in this feature role than it did when he was on the bench. He's got 601 rushing yards in the four games since Jones got hurt, and he's muscling his way into an Offensive Rookie of the Year discussion that at one time began and ended with Carolina's Cam Newton. If you want to debate his place in that discussion, well, ESPNDallas has you covered there, too. Their Hot Button topic this week is on which player is the NFL's top offensive rookie -- Murray, Newton or Cincinnati's Andy Dalton. Have at it.